The Embrey Human Rights Program held a panel on human trafficking in the McCord Auditorium Tuesday in the hopes of raising awareness of the ongoing epidemic around the world. A film was screened prior to the panel, titled “8 Days.” The film was the main focus of the event and set the stage for the panel afterwards, which featured some of the cast and crew.
“8 Days” follows the story of a 16-year-old girl named Amber who trusts the wrong people and ends up being kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking. The film’s subject matter was intense and there were plenty of instances of real emotion being elicited by the movie, but there were far too many mistakes in the production to make it very hard hitting. The film was sloppily made and seemed to be a very amateur production.
The director, Jaco Booyens, clearly had a vision he wanted to tell but it was so wrapped up in creating dramatic moments that nothing came across as very real and the story felt erratic and confused. The actors’ performances all lacked substance and their dialogue hardly gave them anything to work with in the first place.
More so than just the technical aspects of the film being underwhelming, the storyline was conveyed in a manner that didn’t inspire much faith in the system meant to prevent and stop human trafficking. In the film Amber’s parents go to the police to file a missing persons report and they refuse to investigate for an entire week, only looking into the case when a politically powerful friend of the family convinces them to. They are then able to locate her within a day of the initial search.
The point of the film was clearly to show the damages caused by human trafficking, and its heart was definitely in the right place, but the execution left much to be desired and wasn’t the compelling human rights piece it was meant to be. If Booyens possibly had spent more time developing the story to lead to the emotionally traumatic scenes, rather than throw them in every five minutes, it would have resonated in a much stronger way.
While the screening of “8 Days” wasn’t the most compelling call to action, the panel afterwards certainly was. Featuring members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local police officers, and members of the cast and crew of the film, the question and answer session afterwards was enlightening and gripping.
Booyens led the discussion by stating that his film was “meant to be a conversation starter” and it was filmed in such a familiar location for a reason. Only a few weeks ago, three girls were rescued in a Highland Park home. Booyens wanted to show that human trafficking can happen anywhere, at anytime. He continued the discussion and spoke about how hard it can be to spot the problem in modern society.
Jim Walters, assistant Chief of SMU Police, said that, ”they make these girls go to the gym and do normal things.” He spoke about how it was difficult to spot the problem, but the most important thing anyone can do to help is if they see something, say something.